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London Expo Report

Date: 2006 June 05 09:39

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The anime & manga events calendar is becoming increasingly full, last week saw the third London Expo to feature a dedicated 'anime village' we were of course there to report back. I attended the expo which included a large amount of Konoha ninjas, a handful of prize wining manga artists and several Oban Star racers.

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I attended on the Saturday specifically because it was the busiest day event wise. Arriving fairly early the queue stretched out quite a way, but it didn’t seem as long as in previous events. The processing of entrances seemed faster this time, it was hard to judge if the amount of people that had come was more than less than last event since the actual Expo seemed far more spread out before, this made things a little more relaxed and ensured there was actually some space to navigate.

The anime village itself seemed to have expanded there was quite a few more stalls than before, with the added room it was much easier to navigate though in some ways there was so much going on that it was hard to really get a good look, but it seemed almost everyone was doing a good amount of trade. The main DVD companies were well represented including ADV and MVM.

The artist’s alley was once again run by Sweatdrop whose table ran along the back wall of the alley area. Several other groups such as the magazine Imagine FX, letraset and waccom were arranged along the side. If the huge wall of submitted contest art was anything to go by then the alley was a hugely popular feature. It was also interesting to see the range of ages involved in the area.

This time I decided to take a different approach to the event and spend most of my time at the panels. I stopped by the anime screening area, which included titles from most of the major distributors, it was pretty busy the whole event though I did wonder if it was really reaching many new people, those sitting watching generally seemed to be in the usual age range you’d expect from the anime fan community.

Next I went to the main stage, things were running a bit late so I ended up watching an stunt man Rick Faraci’s martial art demonstration which included several types of weapon and the classic breaking wood boards. A slightly hairy moment came when Faraci hit the boards and the bricks crumbled sending dust flying. It had turned out that the staff hadn’t been quite able to find the correct type of bricks; this left the main stage covered with dust!

Next up was the Tokoypop rising stats of manga panel, where the competition was introduced by Toykopop with a Q&A with several winners of the UK and US version .The panel was brief because of time, but the visitors generally seemed keen about what Tokyopop were doing. In a way it would have been nice to spend longer with the artists.

The Oban Star racers panel followed. Oban Star is the result of international cooperation between Europe and Japan. Creator Savin Yeatman-Eiffel was there to introduce the series, he seemed genuinely passionate about the project and genuinely interested in the response from the audience as he talked about the project. His team from Sav! the world productions actually moved to Japan to work on the project.
Oban star has a unique look to it, Yeatman-Eiffel confessed that French viewers commented it looked Japanese whilst Japanese artists said it looked French! There’s defiantly a lot of both the main character Eva has a strong Bandai look to her, reminding me of Blackrose from . Hack. We were treated to a sneak peak of the first two episodes, the only draw back was that we didn’t get to see the opening a shame because the legendary Yoko Kanno composed the opening theme!

I have to say I really enjoyed it; I was immediately hit with a feeling of nostalgia as I was reminded of classic French/Japanese collaboration Ulysses 31. There’s also a strong hint of Osamu Tezuka in there too. The story follows a young girl named Eva who is desperate to see her father who’s a famous racing driver. When she finally sees him he doesn’t recognise her, upset at this she is unable to tell him who she is, instead taking the name from the first thing she sees a poster, si she tells him her name is Molly. However she underestimates just how important her fathers current mission is, it turns out Earth was saved from an alien attack years ago by a group of mysterious aliens just so Earth can compete in a massive intergalactic race. Now the race is about to start Earth has no choice but to take part for fear of what might happen if they don’t. I really enjoyed the episodes I saw the production quality was outstanding, and will certainly be a show to keep an eye on. Oban star starts in the US on 'Jetix on Toon Disne'y erica today ( June 5th) at 8:30pm and Saturday, June 10, (10:30 a.m. ET/PT) on ABC Family. UK viewers have to wait until October 21st on Jetix UK.

Next was the little matter of a certain boy Ninja, the Naruto panel started with a representative of Manga Entertainment and Jetix introducing themselves. The TV edit of Naruto that has been airing on Cartoon Network in America will start on the 22nd of July on Jetix. Next Manga Ent. told us that on the 21st of August we’d see the first volume of Naruto releases and thankfully we’re going straight to Naruto Uncut. Like the U.S release the uncut will be released in batches , this first release will contain the first 12 episodes on one box. Manga have licensed the first 52 episodes, whilst Jetix confirm the first 26. Naruto’s dub voice actress Maile Flanagan, was brought on stage but taken almost straight off since time was short, she later judged the cosplay and spent the intervening time signing autographs. An episode of the T.V edit dub was then shown, it was a bit of a shame that they didn’t cancel the screening instead since it was included on a free DVD in the goody pack as well as handed out just before the panel! I certainly enjoyed the dub, the T.V edit isn’t too obtrusive, the amount of blood has been reduced but because Naruto is digitally animated it wasn’t too obtrusive –the only visual problem this caused was Iruka’s bloodless nosebleed which looked very odd.

After that I sat in on the Eragon panel then headed off to get Maile Flanagan’s autograph. The queue was unsurprisingly full of Ninja’s and streamed well past the Manga Entertainment booth.

This Expo was a vast improvement; it will be interesting to see what the Expo team's dedicated anime event planned for nest year will be like. It’s still important to remember unlike fan events it isn’t a social experience, the best way to enjoy Expo is to take advantage of the panels and special events.

Source: Otaku News
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